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2018 Ironman Augusta 70.3 Race Report – The Swim Bike Mom Version

Last year when I crossed the finish line at Ironman 70.3 Augusta (2017), I would have bet high and good money that it would be my last Augusta. I had said the same thing in 2016.  #whoops

I literally said to the Expert: “NEVER again!” (both years).

And the only real reason? I was just tired of the course, it was hot as balls and I was spent trying to make the long park/walk/bike retrieval post-race transition.

But… the truth is: Augusta is a GREAT race.

So, fast-forward a year and the Expert and I were once again in Augusta. Both our fifth times racing it. We decided to race Ironman Foundation entries to help support the Foundation and Community of Augusta–and also, because it was super last minute. 🔥

This time with our Sherpa-extraordinaire, Todd (aka Swim Bike Nap).  My mother-in-law kept the Swim Bike Kids in Atlanta this year when they decided …they have had enough of the hot race spectating. (I don’t blame them).

We all laughed as we pulled into town–here we go again!

This year was different for me for many reasons.

First, I was a bit untrained for a triathlon (#understatement) and the Expert was gunning for a PR with all of his mega-training. So that is always an interesting dynamic.  I had planned to bike and run more this season, but I just have really fallen in love with CrossFit training and chose to spend my time there–instead of bike or on the run. I knew that I would pay for it on the race course. BUT I also felt super strong. So we would see what would happen.

Truly, I had never trained so little for a race in my life.  I was a tad undertrained last year–but I crammed for it. This year? Uhhhhhh.

I knew also that I was heat-trained well, because our CrossFit box is not air conditioned–and I worked out there all summer. Regardless, as the time neared to actually getting in the water, I was the most nervous I had ever been going into a race. I was certainly not out of shape–but I wasn’t in triathlon-specific shape–and I didn’t know if it would translate.

Or if I would have my first DNF.

That was a strange feeling, because I never have gone into a race thinking I might not finish. Never. That’s not in my mental-wheelhouse. But it was creeping in here… I just was walking into the unknown.

[*Disclaimer: I do not recommend going into any race  (especially a 70.3 or longer) untrained. There are instances where cramming might work. I have been working out 5-6 days a week in CrossFit and Oly lifting.  So “untrained” was really applicable to sport-specific only. I have years and years of doing the three sports and 70.3s—and did a little of each before the race.]

Shenanigans

We had a small meet-up at the finish line on Saturday, where one of my friends encouraged a CrossFit-required handstand. I did it.

Later that night, my wrist was killing me. Did I fracture my damn wrist doing something stupid? Probably. I was having trouble gripping anything, let alone hanging on to it.

This was really getting interesting.  Swim and bike with a broken wrist. Yay me.

Also, I ran into Peter with Quintana Roo at the hotel–which was a nice surprise. QR has been a sponsor of the Tri Club for the last year–and will be for 2019 as well. They have put me on the snazzy PR Six–which I love.

Additional goodies on this bike and me (for race day) by: 
Quintana Roo Tri*
Orr Carbon Wheels
Rudy Project  (Save 30% with code “ba-swimbikemom”)
Bike SRAM 1x setup and care by Cannon Cyclery
Klean Athlete (Save 20% with this link)
Huma Gel (Save 25% with code Atwood25)
–all sponsors of the Tri Club.
*Registration for 2019-opens 10/15 and save on a new bike!

Race Morning

I used the alarm for last year’s Augusta on my phone–4:15. The Expert, Swim Bike Nap and I were out of the door by 5:15.  Down in transition by 5:30.  Easy, set-up with little drama.

Down to the swim start to do the waiting/ pee/ waiting/pee game.

Racing Naked

To make things even more interesting, my Garmin died this week.  🐻 Swim Bike Nap had offered to let me borrow his. But I knew how frustrated I was that time in Ironman Louisville when I was going so slow on the bike–I hated the news being blasted across the Garmin: YOU ARE SLOW, it said. (Not really, but sort of).

I knew that this race wasn’t about time for me. So I opted to “Race Naked”–that is without any idea of the time it was taking me to do any of the events. I was certain that my bike and run pace were going to frustrate the hell out of me if I knew. I would push too hard to increase the pace, and then I would die on the course.

So I opted not to know.

Okay, so I wasn’t naked in clothing. This race was the official debut of the FIRE kit (on pre-order only from Tri*Fe).  I had never raced in an aero top before (the short sleeves) and it was awesome! No sunburn. Kept me cool. (Psssst: You can get in on the rolling pre-order through October 31, 2018 here.)

Swim

The swim, as usual, was fast. This year, however, I am not sure was as fast as some prior years.  Water was not wetsuit legal (but was optional–meaning you start in the back. To me, not worth the trade-off for some small speed on the wetsuit to start in the back of the pack

and run in the worst parts of the heat.)

  • First Timer Augusta 70.3 Tip: You can’t always guarantee a wetsuit legal swim or a super fast river in Augusta.

Also, this was the first year of the rolling start assigned on estimated finish time: 27 minutes and under, 27-30 minutes, 30-33 minutes, and so forth.

I have to say–loved it. It was nice not to be relegated to the assigned crappy-late start time that my age group has usually had. I could seed myself where I wanted–and I got in the water about an hour earlier than last year. I also felt like the water was less crowded, though I’m not sure

if that was true–or if it’s because I like to swim far right. Which isn’t really intentional… that’s just where I end up.


First Timer Cold Water “Panic” Cure  

– put face in the water and forcefully push out all the air in lungs underwater;
 – head up, take a deep breath;
– head back in the water, repeat 2-3 more times.
– This prevents the hyperventilation that is caused by short, panicky breaths.  Try it if the cold water gets you, when you feel panicked or fearful. The first moment is hard, but repeatedly forcing the breath out is a life-saver. Then when the swim starts, focus on breathing out fully in the water, and within a minute or two, you should be good.  (Of course, if not, find a kayak, float on your side or back, or breast-stroke until you are calm.


I was out of the water in 33 minutes–as I later learned. The swim felt great but I didn’t know my time out of the water.

I was pleased with this, considering my lack of time in the pool. I could tell a huge difference in my balance and pull from the strength training, however. This was by far the “easiest” and least effort swim I have ever done in any race. So far, so good.

T1 and T2

I took my time in transitions this year. Didn’t run or lose my mind. Washed off my feet and dried them. Hilarious. But I knew I’d be on the bike and run longer than most years–and I didn’t want to repeat the Ironman Lake Placid foot debacle. Lessons learned.

Bike

New bike course this year–all in Georgia–and about 300-40o less feet of climbing than prior years.

So I usually go out on the bike and I mean business. My business this year? Well, it was minding my own–and riding easy enough to actually finish. My longest ride since 2017’s Augusta was 35 miles–and that was only four weeks ago. (Do not as I do.) I knew that 56 miles was a tall, tall order. I could not attempt to pull a usual 18-19.5 MPH—I would never ever make it to the end of the 56. I would dead on the side of road at Mile 15.

I settled into riding in the right lane. Much like my first 70.3 in 2011–and listened to 3:33:00 of “on your left” and “hi, Swim Bike Mom” and “nice kit” and “nice bike” (with the undertone of ‘why aren’t you going faster on that bike’ – yes, I know.)

I enjoyed the bike immensely.

(Maybe not the best picture to indicate such. 🤣)

Around Mile 30, I saw a rider go down hard about 100 yards in front of us. I pulled over and got off my bike to help with the down rider. I waited with her until Ironman support came.  All I can say is, Thank goodness for helmets, y’all. Make sure you have your melon cover tightened down always.  I spent probably 15-20 minutes off the bike before continuing. Down the road I realized that my hands and arms were covered in blood from the wreck, so I washed them off with sticky Tailwind from my bottles so I didn’t get strange blood in my mouth or eyes until I could get some water. (Eeek, I know). At the next aid station, I grabbed a bottle, dismounted and did a thorough rinse–and looked in the Porta Potty mirror to make sure I didn’t have any on my face.

Couple of observations about this year’s bike – I thought the course was “easier” than the prior years as far as difficulty of climbs. I enjoyed the flat start and finish (all the climbing was in the middle of the course, more or less).

But there were far more many obstacles to tackle–several sets of railroad tracks, potholes and turns and twists. While I would still call this course very first-timer friendly for a 70.3, this bike course required some additional bike handling skills than some of the prior.

Because of the rolling start, the bike was less crowded–at least I thought it was–but it could be because I wasn’t really going all that fast.

IRONMAN did a great job staffing all the stops, intersections and the like. They arrived super quickly to help with the down rider. I always appreciate the class and magnitude at these events.

  • First-Timer Augusta 70.3 Tip: 
    • Master your bike handling skills. Practice riding over railroad tracks and taking turns easy, and holding your line (staying straight). I mean, these are skills that anyone racing should  have–but it bears repeating especially if this is your first. People will be on your left–and you need to make sure you can stay right during the race and taking turns–and managing yourself over the course.
  • First timer tips for heading out on the Bike Course: 
    • Walk your bike to the mount line, but do NOT block the mount line. Take your bike 10-15 feet past the mount line, go to the far right (near the barricades) and take your time straddling your bike.  Look behind you, and make sure you are clear before you go.  Yes, you might have to wait a New York minute. Then look ahead and focus on going forward,in a straight line. Hold your line, and stay to the right.
    • Keep one foot un-clipped, in case you have to stop, or put your foot down.  It can be tricky getting down the road. You should be able to adapt and stop if necessary.
    • Once you are on your bike and riding, stay to the RIGHT.
    • Take your time to clip in the other foot once you are ready. You can ride slow, but stay RIGHT. Far right. Not middle, and never left. There are people who are ready to start the bike and go, and they would like to go. When you are riding on the left or in the middle of the road, trying to clip in, or weaving, you are dangerous. Really.
    • Then, unless you are a confident, reasonably skilled and fast cyclist, just hang out to the right. For a long while, until the ride opens up and you can safely pass people.

Run

Same fantastically flat, spectator-friendly and runner-encouraged run.  Same hot-as-balls Augusta as the last few years.  With a high of 92 degrees on race, the sun was adequately baking. 🔥

Not having my watch, I asked the volunteers in T2, “What time is it” as I headed out… she said, “12:30.”

12:30. High noon. Perrrrrfect.

  • First Timer Augusta 70.3 Tip:  Yes, the run really is “that flat.”  There is one incline heading out of transition, near the railroad, and that is it.  Literally, 80 feet of elevation for the whole 13.1. Pancake. GREAT run course.  Also excellent for spectators, as you repeat the loop twice AND snake through downtown. Your sherpas can literally see you 8-10 times if they want to run/cross a few blocks.

My plan for the run was :30 run and :30 walk – because I could count to 30 and I was without a Garmin. And also because I knew that would likely be the best interval to make me run the most.

I did well for the first 5 miles, but I’ll be honest… I was just over it. I wanted to turn in my timing chip and walk off for the day. I was hungry, tired and hot.

I knew that the rest of the run would be a slog-fest, because I just hadn’t done enough of said running.I had a bit of a tude–even though I had planned to stay positive and grateful. I was still thinking, my legs hurt, my back hurt, this is hot, I suck. 

And I swear, as this was going through my head, I saw my friend Andrea, spectating.

  • Backstory on this amazing gal: An accomplished triathlete, Andrea was diagnosed with ALS in 2014 and has since competed in dozens of races and, through the Team Drea Foundation, raised more than $150,000 to find a cure for the neurological disease.
    “When you are diagnosed with ALS, you can completely shut yourself in or you can have the opposite response, which is what Andrea has had,” Peet’s husband Dave says. “She’s transformed into this force of nature.” Check out Team Drea Foundation here.

So Andrea… as usual, a bright light. And I snapped out of my funk. After I gave her a disgustingly sweaty hug. 🙂

From that point forward, I said to myself that racing was not about me.

I was going to do the rest of the race because I could–and that in itself was simply enough. I could move my legs forward, even if they were slow or hurt. I could do it–so I would. I would do it for anyone who couldn’t. 

I ran where I could, but mostly walked, talked and pushed forward.  I had no idea what my time was, or what mile I trudged along (outside of the signs on the course).  I had no goal time. I just wanted to finish–though under 8 hours would have been nice.

People would ask me, “How is your race going?” as I walked/ran by. I would say, smiling, “I am having just the race I deserve to have!”

Public Service Announcement: Hypoatremia

I looked down at my hands around Mile 10 and they were super bloated and swollen, as well as my stomach. My stomach felt like it had doubled in size from the start of the race. My hands were like catcher’s mitts, and I couldn’t bend my fingers well.

You can see my hands and stomach well in this picture. #HaveMercy #ThatsNotPizza #PizzaCameAfter

I knew that I had hypoatremia symptoms.  Basically, hypoatremia occurs when the sodium concentration is low and the cells in the body swell.  It’s no bueno.

A gal on the course heard me say I needed salt and handed me her Base Salt… totally helped. I felt better within five minutes, and I was feeling much better within a mile. I was careful to take the salt on the tongue and not swallow it.  Getting salt straight to the gut can induce vomiting pretty quickly.

I would have cut the course straight to medical if I hadn’t had the salt available. *Hyponatremia is super serious–it can be mild, but you don’t know where you are on the spectrum until you are there. Because I had the salt, I felt better almost immediately, and I knew I could walk to medical. But by the time I got there, I had de-swelled about 25%, so I was headed in the right direction. I continued with Gatorade and salt.

But my PSA: I have not had this issue before. But I know what caused it.  I was over-hydrated with water (because it was hot, I was drinking water only). I am a super salty sweater, though, so I usually pound the Gatorade at aid stations–never straight water for Mile after Mile. Perhaps because I wasn’t doing much running, I didn’t think I needed the fuel as much. BUT, I did.  I was hardly sweating–but my kit was covered in salt stains.  Also, I usually salt-load a little in the days leading up to the race, which I didn’t do this time.  So–another lesson learned. Always something to learn!

*On the flip side, you can have too much sodium (hypernatremia)–causing a host of other issues like vomiting and nausea–and can be super serious as well.

Summary: Try to Be Goldilocks with your nutrition and electrolytes—get it juuuuust right.  If you don’t where to go to get info, check out my gal Dina Griffin: The Nutrition Mechanic. It’s her expertise that allowed me to right the race nutrition wrong quickly–I had the knowledge to fix right there on course. I should have done better before that happened… but nonetheless. I knew.  She’s a great “Nutrition Mechanic” 🙂

Sherpa Extraordinaire 

Our friend Todd decided to tag along with us at the last minute–and I am so incredibly thankful. He retrieved bikes and transition stuffs (with the Expert) while they waited for me to finish. I just had to get pizza and drag my butt to the car. And he drove home from Augusta to Atlanta.

The Expert: Training Plan

Since I have no data to share and I had my second slowest 70.3,  I’ll share my athlete’s. 😀

Big shout-out to the Expert on his 5:54 race time– massive course PR–and 70.3 PR as well. Turns out that you can coach your spouse. 👏

He has been working long and hard on his off-the-bike run, and he killed it–especially in the heat. The additional two-strength HIITS workouts per week were definitely part of the gains. And he’s super-lean as well.

But really, I just kicked his ass in the last 10 weeks which made race day feel like just another horrible training day created by yours truly. 🙂

One of the biggest bike workouts I had him repeat was at a 5-mile flat-loop course (originally, he was racing a flat race). But the workout was 65 miles and based on FTP, he’d do an upwards ladder increasing %FTP each loop with some recovery built in. We increased his training stress (taking his “normal” ride from 50 to 65 miles), trained at, near, or above his FTP consistently.

On race day, we shot for a High Zone 2 heartrate and 180 watts normalized power.  He nailed it.

For the run, we focused on a Galloway plan of 2:1.  He’s a good adult-onset runner, but consistently gases out off-the-bike after Mile 7 (which is of course a combo of his historic balls-to-the-wall bike effort and not enough brick training historically #BikeHeroRunZero.)

People are reluctant to Galloway. I get it. (Read an article here).

But I also knew a 2:1 would help him manage his expectations, heart rate, and the stress on his body in Augusta heat as well.  I have run my best races doing Galloway.

Look at this beautiful execution of 2:1.  Ahhhhh. A coach’s dream.

And like I suspected, he also ran his best half off the bike ever at an 11:03 pace.

In a case of Expert v. Expert, he totally won. This was a really amazing effort on a tricky bike course and a sweltering, relentless day.

Thinking back to where we both started in triathlon with 70.3 Miami (where I beat him–my only time)–he’s really done amazing.

He made it happen for himself. Any plan is only worth a damn if you execute it.  And he did. Congratulations on that amazing mental fortitude and hard work, dude.  Proud of you, dude.

Me: The CrossFit Triathlete – A Final Verdict?

I had run into several friends over the last few months asking me about my training.  I sort of chuckled each time–because I was taking a reallllly long vacay, apparently.

I have done no swim training. I rode my bike less than once a week–more like twice a month, and never longer than 2 hours. I ran about 3 times a month, and not longer than one tough CrossFit 9-miler. I did no real run training outside of CrossFit–but I still managed to survive the day with a 7:40 time–and that’s after stopping on the bike to help a crash scene–so the actual time was probably 7:20.

Now, I know that isn’t fast, but looking back on my past times–ranging from 6:25 to 7:03–and I was training all the time for triathlon–the trade-off is interesting.

The  prior time spent in the saddle and out pounding the pavement on the run? That I used to spend? Huge. At least 12-20 hours a week.  I probably trained about 6-7 hours a week this season at CrossFit and weightlifting–total.

So it can be done on CrossFit alone. But I wouldn’t do it again that way (nor do I recommend it).

Truths: triathlon is an endurance sport, and my endurance was shot from not working on my endurance.  I could only really run the first 5 miles of the run before my body revolted and forced me to a slog. But I do that most years anyway–that’s the funny part. Le sigh. 

That being said. 

Structurally, I was by far more healthy and sound with this way of training. The swim was the “easiest” half iron swim of my life. I could really feel my shoulders and lats in balance. I swam in a straight line, too. I didn’t try to swim hard and still did just fine.

On the bike, I had a hard time holding up my head and shoulders in aero after Mile 40–but that was only because of lack of time in the saddle. Same with the legs and power–I had enough in me for a 16.5 pace (moving pace, I would estimate not counting the stop with the crash)–when I usually do the bike in mid-18 MPHS or faster. So the speed-endurance trade-off was certainly a factor.

On the run, again–the running form and muscles pretty much gave up on me after Mile 5–which makes total sense since I didn’t train much longer than that since last year. I did one or two 8 and 9 mile runs since May, but that’s really it. So I didn’t expect the run to feel better otherwise. But I look back on some of my past Augustas… where I was training all the time in swim, bike and run, and I didn’t fare that much better.

Verdict: I wouldn’t recommend doing a 70.3 on CrossFit alone. However, I wouldn’t do tri training without it going forward. I saw REAL gains. Real strength and structural fixes. Now, it doesn’t have to be CrossFit, of course, but strength training–HIITS training–major, major. I will be changing my training plan if I decide to race long course. I will likely change my athlete’s plans going forward–and based on the results with the Expert.

I would be implementing a (heavily) reduced swim, bike and run volume schedule for CrossFit/Strength/HIITS if I decide to do another one. I believe that as long as you’re hitting that long endurance workout–great results are there to grab.  Where I “failed” was actually doing the swim, bike and run training in addition–I just focused on CrossFit–but that was my plan anyway.

So… TBD… maybe. 😀

Finish Time:  7:40:18

Many thanks to a great community. To the sponsors below. To IRONMAN Foundation and everyone who continues to keep me coming back to this great sport–time and time again.

Love to you all,
Meredith


Special thanks to those who partner with Swim Bike Mom and The Best Tri Club Ever / Spirtus Tri Club

Click here for a discount
when you order from this link!

Use Code “Atwood25” for 25% off

Use Code ba-swimbikemom for 30% off / http://bit.ly/rudy-swimbikemom

 


Ironman 70.3 Augusta Through the Years

Click on the picture for the prior race reports.

2012

2013

2016

2017

One Comment

  • Chelsea

    September 27, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    Sounds like you had a FANTASTIC race! I’m in awe. There’s no way I could go into a 70.3 “underleveled” (as it were), and here you are, out of the game for a bit, and you crushed it with confidence. Congratulations! I’ll be re-reading this before I race again, because this post is very “roots of SBM” — it reminded me of why I started reading your blog.

    Keep it up, this lady is cheering for you all the way from Canada!

    Reply

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